The Wii U — Nintendo’s first new home console in six years — may not be available until next Saturday here in Japan, but that didn’t stop our team getting hold of a North American unit and getting stuck into some quality gaming early.

Gamers among you will already know a little about Nintendo’s newest baby, but for the uninitiated, here it is in a nutshell: the Wii U combines the remote-wielding mayhem of everyone’s favourite Nintendo system with a unique new controller featuring a touch screen that can be used with or without a TV set, all topped off with a layer of gorgeous high-definition visuals. The idea is that the player uses the screen to interaxct with their games in a new way or, as we did here, use the gamepad screen in place of a TV set.

Sounds good, right?

But until we got our hands on a Wii U, we never fully appreciated just how much of a game-changer it was. We’ve played Sony PSP and Nintendo DS consoles on the go for years now, but imagine being able to take your actual home games console out on the road. Or how about on a high speed train…

  • No need for a TV, you say?

Yes indeedy! The controller itself doubles as a screen, meaning that while playing at home there’s no need to hog the TV to play games. Just hit the button and your game is in the palm of your hands instead.

What does that mean for Johnny Gamer? It means that wherever a power socket is available, they can play their videogames exactly as they would at home. Since many of Japan’s shinkansen bullet trains having power outlets for laptops and mobile phone charging, so long as you don’t mind having a little extra luggage, your home console experience never stops.

As soon as that thought dawned on us, we packed our shiny new black box and headed to Tokyo station.

  • On-board the bullet train

Although not every shinkansen has power outlets, it’s common for Nozomi shinkansen that travel solely between larger stations to have an outlet situated in the wall below the window. With that in mind, we booked ahead and reserved a window seat. Sure enough, there was an outlet available. We unfolded our tray, stood the Wii U console up on its side (the deluxe pack comes with a little stand) and powered ‘er up.

  • Travelling light

The thought of lugging a home console, power adapter and controller out and about is perhaps not especially appealing, but thanks to the Wii U’s size (not much bigger than two or three DVD cases stacked together), it was far less cumbersome than we’d imagined.

Compared to, say, using a Playstation 3 and an official portable monitor- requiring the console, AC adaptor, monitor, adaptor for the monitor, and controller – the Wii U was an absolute breeze and no heavier than carrying an average-sized laptop.

  • Getting online

Of course, it’s not necessary to be online to play the Wii U’s games, but there’s a host of features and services like chat, messaging and, of course, downloadable titles to be taken advantage of should you have access to the internet.

Thanks to the wonder that is tethering, we were able to link our Wii U console to our iPhone and share its internet connection. The console had no trouble whatsoever making friends with our iPhone and before we knew it, our Wii U Plaza (the main home screen) was a bustling hub of activity, fully connected to the outside world.

Having the console running perfectly, just as it did at home or at RocketNews24 Towers, was a genuinely bizarre experience, but at the same time absolutely wonderful. So many nerdy childhood dreams realised in one short train journey!

  • But let’s not get carried away…

This is Japan, and there are manners, rules and customs to be respected! And as much as we enjoyed bringing our miniature gaming rig with us, there are bound to be times when others might not be so pleased that we decided to do so.

If you do decide to take your console with your on a long-haul train ride, we recommend taking an outlet splitter so that others might also use the power outlet for their laptops of to charge their mobile phone. After all, if we ever found ourselves running low on battery and waiting for an important email to come through, we might not be so forgiving if the guy next to us is hogging the juice just to play a few levels of New Super Mario Bros U

Thankfully, the Wii U’s control pad comes complete with a headphone socket, meaning that you’ll be able to play to your heart’s content without any of those bleeps, chirps and squishy goomba sounds bothering your fellow passengers.

A home games console played on the run with minimal fuss! Now all we need is to realise our dream of taking a bath in the first class section of a plane while eating Indian curry and sipping beer and we can die happy.

We’ll leave you with a couple more photos of our new Wii U (and our correspondent Kuzo!) to drool over if you haven’t picked yours up yet. It’s so very, very shiny…

Photos: RocketNews24

Ah, tethering! Where have you been all our lives!?

Trips to Osaka just got a lot more fun (and is that Minnie Mouse sitting in front!?)

All working perfectly!

Kuzo deep in the zone (with headphones, too! What a gent!)

Snipey snipey

Yeah, we’d say that qualifies as a decent connection…

And there was still space for lunch!

Thank you, shinkansen! May you forever let us plug stuff into you!


[ Read in Japanese ]